Tirkane Sweat House

Map Reference: C827025 (2827, 4025)

The origins and antiquity of sweathouses are not known. They may have been introduced in Viking times and consist basically of a small stone building with a low entrance and a chimney hole. The method of construction has been used from prehistoric times until the present day and does not give any clue to the date of the sweathouses. To prepare the sweathouse for use a fire was burned inside for several days. When it was hot enough the ashes were raked out. The floor was swept and covered with a thick layer of rushes or bracken. The people then removed their clothes and went inside, sometimes using their clothes to block the doorway. At least two people used the sweathouse at a time in case of fainting from heat, but the maximum number of users depended on the size of the sweathouse. After about an hour they came out and bathed in a nearby stream or in a plunge-pool constructed for the purpose.

This sweathouse is built against the south face of a hill and at first appearance looks like a souterrain. It is covered with sod and is almost indistinguishable from its natural surroundings

The entrance is at ground level and is about 38cm square

The interior is stone-paved and the chamber is about 165cm high by 220cm long and 83cm wide. The roof is constructed of flat stones and there is a small chimney hole at the back left hand corner

Outside the sweathouse is a circular well where the hot bodies could be cooled

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